ATHENS — A division title is finally, after some late flirtation, off the table. A warm-weather, New Year’s Day bowl invitation may be, too.
So Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, a day after a heart-wrenching, overtime loss to arch-rival Florida, indicated that the team’s new goal is to just keep playing.
“There’s honor in that,” Richt said. “We have fans that have paid their money for their season tickets. We’ve got people that still love the Dogs and want to see them do well.”
Many of those fans seem to be antsy about their Bulldogs, who are 4-5 overall and 3-4 in the SEC.
One sign of dissatisfaction was visible for those making the drive from Jacksonville, Fla., to Athens. In block letters, a fan had posted this on his barn, which was on Route 44: “RICHT, 53K PER WEEK FOR THIS? BETTER FIGURE IT OUT.”
Chances are Georgia will figure out a way to win in its next game: Idaho State, a program that will carry a 1-7 record into Athens on Saturday.
Then the Bulldogs should have a chance to play spoiler, when they visit Auburn. The unbeaten Tigers dropped to second this week in the BCS standings. The regular season winds up with Georgia Tech coming to Athens.
During that final stretch, the Bulldogs will be seeking to avoid their first six-loss season since 1996.
But already, this is the program’s worst two-season stretch since 1995-96, which was Ray Goff’s final year and Jim Donnan’s first.
Richt’s job does not appear to be in major jeopardy. New athletics director Greg McGarity made supportive comments about his coach last week.
Plus, the result in Jacksonville was a close one, as all five of the Bulldogs’ losses have been. Their average margin of defeat is a touchdown, while their margin of victory is 32.8.
“All these guys are not professional athletes, but they certainly have pride in what they do and understand that they have a job to do,” Richt said of his players. “And they know that when they do that job they’ve gotta do the best they can. We’ll do that, and we’ve been doing that actually. Sometimes you lose a game like that and people might think an awful amount went right.”
Senior receiver Kris Durham bruised his lung in the Florida game and will be questionable to play this week, according to Richt.
Durham, a starter who leads the Bulldogs in receiving yards, had three catches for 41 yards against the Gators.
Richt said it was the only injury that emerged from Jacksonville.
Star receiver A.J. Green only had four catches for 42 yards, including a late touchdown. But Richt, after watching tape, said Green was the primary receiver on 16 plays, and the secondary one on eight more.
“I had a feeling you all might ask that (about Green’s lack of catches), so I did a bit of research,” Richt said.
The game time for the Auburn game should be announced Monday, unless CBS elects to take the six-day window and wait until next week. The choice for CBS seems to be between Georgia-Auburn, a border rivalry including one of the top teams in the country, or South Carolina at Florida, which will likely decide the SEC East. Richt did not complain about Florida not being called for excessive celebration in overtime, after Aaron Murray’s interception. Richt pointed out that Florida had almost returned it for a touchdown and thought the game was over.
“If I was an official, I would’ve had a hard time calling it right there,” Richt said.